Hurricane Irene: “one scary big storm…”

As Hurricane Irene heads for the North Carolina coast, US President Barack Obama cuts short his family holiday in Martha’s Vineyard, by a day, warning the public that “All indications point to this being a historic hurricane”.  The Guardian report adds that “Obama’s wife and daughters will travel back as planned on Saturday”.  [Image credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project]


The GOES-13 satellite saw Hurricane Irene moving through the Bahamas on August 25, 2011 at 1402 UTC (10:02 a.m. EDT) and far to the east was newly born Tropical Depression 10 (far left). Irene dwarfs Tropical Depression 10, and Irene is about 1/3rd the size of the entire U.S. East coast.

As the BBC report notes

States of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and in the nation’s biggest city, New York.

As the New York Times reports, “officials [have] announced plans to evacuate low-lying areas in New York City and shut down the sprawling subway and transit system.”  Irene is due to reach New York City at 8pm Sunday [local time EDT].

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation — something he said the city had never done before — of coastal areas in Brooklyn; Queens, including all of the Rockaways; and Staten Island, along with Battery Park City and the financial district in Lower Manhattan and Governor’s Island. The evacuation covered 250,000 people who, he said, should get out before the storm swept in.

“You only have to look at the weather maps to understand how big this storm is and how unique it is,” the mayor said at a news conference, “and it’s heading basically for us.”

“If you’re in its way,” he said, “it’s a lot more powerful than any of us.”

Officials said the subway shutdown was prompted mainly by wind calculations that suggested the hurricane could endanger subway cars where they run above ground. The commuter rail lines that serve Long Island, Westchester County and Connecticut will also be shut down, as will commuter rail lines — but not buses — in New Jersey.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said that a half dozen bridges — including the George Washington Bridge, the Robert F. Kennedy Triboro Bridge, the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Whitestone Bridge — would be closed if winds reached 60 miles an hour for more than a short time.

Astronauts on the International Space Station have been flying over Hurricane Irene.  Here’s the footage from 24th “as it churned over the Bahamas”.  And below is from yesterday.  Video from NASAtelevision.


Cameras mounted on the International Space Station captured new views of Hurricane Irene as it churned across the Bahamas at 3:47 p.m. EDT on August 25, 2011. Irene, which is a massive and powerful category 3 hurricane, is moving north-northwest toward a likely brush with the outer banks of North Carolina Saturday before tracking up the mid-Atlantic states and a possible path over the metropolitan New York area and New England late this weekend.

And via the New York Times blog, The Lede, which is carrying the latest updates on Hurricane Irene, here’s a view of Irene on a global scale.  [Image credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project]


Based on this image of the earth, taken from a NASA satellite on Friday at 10:45 a.m. ET, the space agency estimates that Hurricane Irene now has a diameter of about 510 miles, which is almost one-third the length of the U.S. Atlantic coastline.

As “Mike” said in the NasaTV video, that’s “one scary big storm.”

Adds Got to point to the quote in the Boston Herald report from Martha’s Vineyard.

Even for an island accustomed to a frantic August, this week has been unusual: an earthquake, a presidential visit and, now, an impending hurricane.

“The only thing we’re missing is a meteor,” Martell said. “That’s next week.”


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  • The Lady in My Life insists there is mileage in the Gaia thesis. Her frequent offering is “Mother Nature will get her own back”.

    Well, as of this weekend, we have two daughters and seven grandchildren in Noo Joisey, right in the line-of-sight of this thing.

    All that apart, a couple of discomforts came to my eye. First up there was the New York Times telling us Alert Extends Up the East Coast as Hurricane Irene Closes In.

    Then producing a couple of snatches of vox pop:

    “This is not just a costal [sic: but see below] event,” said Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center. He said that he was highly confident now of the storm’s track, meaning it will be a rare hurricane that travels right along the densely populated Interstate 95 corridor.


    “You never know what direction it’s going to come in,” said Michelle Jones, 42, who joined the crowds at a Wal-Mart in Garner not far from Raleigh… “This could flood me out or blow me down,” she said. She remembers Hurricane Fran in 1996. “They didn’t think it was coming here, and it came right up 40 to Raleigh.”

    Until then I had never appreciated that storms followed road-maps.

    Or do the roads follow natural paths as much as the storms? Which is when the spookiness grew, for there was the BBC forecaster telling us that hurricanes “follow lines of least resistance”.

    Oh dear!

    Ley-lines, if they exist (and I am a profound sceptic), are defined as:

    Alignments and patterns of powerful, invisible earth energy said to connect various sacred sites, such as churches, temples, stone circles, megaliths, holy wells, burial sites, and other locations of spiritual or magical importance.

    Sitting in North London, as I was drafting this as a post for my blog, the sky theatrically darkened, and there was the first clap of thunder. Suddenly it became easier to believe in powerful, invisible earth energy, and even that it follows the A406 North Circular Road.


    My first reaction there was to assume a typo for “coastal”, which then makes perfect sense.

    Yet “costal” is a proper physiological term, meaning “of the ribs”. So the simple act of breathing in and out is “costal respiration”.

    And ley-lines (same caveat as above applies) are not too far adrift from being the ribs of the earth.

    Woo hoo!

  • Kevsterino

    Nice post, Malcolm. My son and his family are near Savannah so I was relieved it was going to make landfall northwards. I hope your daughters and theirs know how to get to high ground. This one looks pretty hairy.

  • I was supposed to be in N.Y. this weekend with 3 of my brothers who are visiting from N.I. and England. I had a medical incident and couldn’t go but they all set off yesterday with their wives on a 4 day bus trip. I don’t know what is happening.

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: Or do the roads follow natural paths as much as the storms? Which is when the spookiness grew, for there was the BBC forecaster telling us that hurricanes “follow lines of least resistance”.
    The lines of least resistance would be low lying ground, which would include valleys and passes. I.e. the sort of places where people build roads. Hurricanes will also tend to skim along a coast unless they hit it at a decent angle, especially if it is backed by mountains. Hurricane Irene seems set to skim the coast.
    But a low lying coastal city would be a really bad place to hang around in with a hurricane approaching the coast head on. Fortunately New Orleans isn’t in the path of this one.

  • michael-mcivor

    I just want to wish the American people and all those who have relatives and friends there the best of luck-

  • Good sentiment, michael. But it’s not just luck; be prepared.

  • USA

    I don’t think it will be too bad where we live (Eastern Pennsylvania), although we were under a mandatory evacuation from our beach house in NJ this weekend. Lots of traffic lines for petrol, some stations were sold out. $3.45 a gallon btw, I think that is around 5 pounds per gallon or approx 1.25 per litre.

  • oracle

    Conversion and maths not your strong point USA

  • I’m not going to do the math, oracle, but don’t forget that an American gallon is 3.78 litres, not 4.5. And USA might work for NASA.

  • Kevsterino

    Kind sentiments always appreciated, Michael.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Thank Deity that it’s only a category 1 (the glass half full approach). For those in the storm path, find somewhere safe, not necessarily somewhere other than home, just don’t be in a vulnerable position (stay safe from flying debris). And once it passes, wait a while, if possible before driving anywhere. Let the authorities located the downed, live electrical wires, etc. Lastly, not otherwise trying to be flippant with the lucky you that it’s only category 1, but I remember Iniki well, and you don’t want 140-160 mph winds (so thank Deity that it’s went from category 3 to category 1)(Iniki was category 4, with the not so sustained but peak wind speeds of 227 mph). Almost forgot, but even after the storm passes, until the authorities and you give the all clear, watch the kids like a hawk. For one more, if you’ve an overhanging roof, try eliminating the overhang, and not by chopping off some roof, but tarp the thing, taut as it can be, as you don’t want the wind hitting the house and then having nowhere to go but up, since that’s how your roof might get blown off. See just past the 1:10 and 1:40 marks here for how it happens:

    Tarp up!

  • slappymcgroundout

    Sorry almost forgot, but duct tape any shingles on the roof as well. Note the noted 1:40 mark. You may not think the almost nonexistent space between the shingles is all that critical, but the higher the wind speeds the easier for the air to blow into that space and starting blowing the shingles off. Don’t let the wind have a path under the shingles.

  • USA

    Joe and Oracle,
    I wish I could say I work for NASA. Truth is I totally messed up the conversions which is unusual as I am normally pretty good, believe it or not 🙁

    Survived the storm though. Got pretty tense for about 30 minutes when tornado’s formed in our area, even showed the kids the emergency drill. Lots of flooding and downed trees. First day of school has been canceled due to widespread power outages.

  • Good news, USA.

  • pauluk

    Thankfully, after the end-of-the-world hype and media bluster and predictions from BO of ‘a historic hurricane’, they all got it wrong.

    Getting to be a bit of a habit for ‘The One’.

  • pauluk
  • I guess you haven’t been in such a storm, pauluk. It wasn’t just hype. With a storm like that you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. They aren’t totally predictable.